The Tiv say they emerged into their present location from the southeast. "Coming down," as they put it, they met the Fulani, with whom they still recognize a joking relationship. The earliest recorded European contact was in 1852, when Tiv were found on the banks of the Benue. In 1879 their occupation of the riverbanks was about the same as in 1950. British occupying forces entered Tivland from the east in 1906, when they were called in to protect a Hausa and Jukun enclave that Tiv had attacked. The Tiv said in 1950 that they had defeated this British force, then later invited the British in. The southern area was penetrated from the south; what southern Tiv call "the eruption" of the British there occurred in 1911.
Dutch Reformed missionaries from South Africa entered Tivland in 1911; they were joined, and then succeeded, by U.S. Protestants in the 1940s and 1950s. Catholic missions arrived in the 1920s.
The early administration, coming as it did from the east where Tiv had come under the influence (but not the hegemony) of Jukun and Hausa kingdoms, established "District Heads," who were influential men to whom the British gave authority in which other Tiv did not concur. That system was extended beyond the area of Jukun influence to other Tiv, causing disturbances. Beginning in 1934, the administration created Tiv experts—men who learned the Tiv language and stayed for far longer periods of time than most colonial officers stayed with any given people. Their reports provided a firm basis for administrative reform.